Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace - classic fiction

Another super-long classic makes the "Best Books of All Time" list.


Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace - classic fiction

About this book:

War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature. It is considered Tolstoy's finest literary achievement, along with his other major prose work Anna Karenina (1873–1877).
Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of War and Peace that it was "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle". Large sections of the work, especially in the later chapters, are philosophical discussion rather than narrative. He went on to elaborate that the best Russian literature does not conform to standard norms and hence hesitated to call War and Peace a novel. (Instead, Tolstoy regarded Anna Karenina as his first true novel.)

The novel begins in July 1805 in Saint Petersburg, at a soirée given by Anna Pavlovna Scherer—the maid of honour and confidante to the queen mother Maria Feodorovna. Many of the main characters and aristocratic families in the novel are introduced as they enter Anna Pavlovna's salon. Pierre (Pyotr Kirilovich) Bezukhov is the illegitimate son of a wealthy count, an elderly man who is dying after a series of strokes. Pierre is about to become embroiled in a struggle for his inheritance. Educated abroad at his father's expense following his mother's death, Pierre is essentially kindhearted, but socially awkward, and owing in part to his open, benevolent nature, finds it difficult to integrate into Petersburg society. It is known to everyone at the soirée that Pierre is his father's favorite of all the old count’s illegitimate children.

Also attending the soireé is Pierre's friend, the intelligent and sardonic Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky, husband of Lise, the charming society favourite. Finding Petersburg society unctuous and disillusioned with married life after discovering his wife is empty and superficial, Prince Andrei makes the fateful choice to be an aide-de-camp to Prince Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov in the coming war against Napoleon.

The plot moves to Moscow, Russia's ancient city and former capital, contrasting its provincial, more Russian ways to the highly mannered society of Petersburg. The Rostov family are introduced. Count Ilya Andreyevich Rostov has four adolescent children. Thirteen-year-old Natasha (Natalia Ilyinichna) believes herself in love with Boris Drubetskoy, a disciplined young man who is about to join the army as an officer. Twenty-year-old Nikolai Ilyich pledges his love to Sonya (Sofia Alexandrovna), his fifteen-year-old cousin, an orphan who has been brought up by the Rostovs. The eldest child of the Rostov family, Vera Ilyinichna, is cold and somewhat haughty but has a good prospective marriage in a Russian-German officer, Adolf Karlovich Berg. Petya (Pyotr Ilyich) is nine and the youngest of the Rostov family; like his brother, he is impetuous and eager to join the army when of age. The heads of the family, Count Ilya Rostov and Countess Natalya Rostova, are an affectionate couple but forever worried about their disordered finances.

At Bald Hills, the Bolkonskys' country estate, Prince Andrei departs for war and leaves his terrified, pregnant wife Lise with his eccentric father Prince Nikolai Andreyevich Bolkonsky and devoutly religious sister Maria Nikolayevna Bolkonskaya...
(source: Wikipedia)

About the author:

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (9 September [O.S. 28 August] 1828 – 20 November [O.S. 7 November] 1910), also known as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. Tolstoy is equally known for his complicated and paradoxical persona and for his extreme moralistic and ascetic views, which he adopted after a moral crisis and spiritual awakening in the 1870s, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer.

His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
(source: Wikipedia)

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